Minus WR Amendola, Rams need group effort

Minus WR Amendola, Rams need group effort

ST. LOUIS (AP) With prolific wide receiver Danny Amendola sidelined by a collarbone injury, the St. Louis Rams will probably need a group effort to make up the volume for the next several weeks.

They're doing their best to put a positive face on the situation. Amendola is among the NFL leaders with 32 receptions, and has nearly 40 percent of the Rams' catches on the year.

``Danny going down just opens the door,'' quarterback Sam Bradford said Wednesday. ``It gives an opportunity to some of our other receivers to step up and make plays.''

That includes rookies Chris Givens and Brian Quick. Steve Smith figures to get back into the mix this week at Miami after being inactive the last two games.

Smith, who has five catches with a 14-yard average, downplayed the opportunity.

``I'm just going to do my job, do what they ask of me,'' Smith said. ``I'm just coming in ready to work every day.''

Coach Jeff Fisher said Smith took the hits ``like a pro'' and made contributions on the scout team.

``He even continued with that today,'' Fisher said. ``Don't expect him to like it, but he understood. He understands patience.

``Unfortunately, through injury he's been given another opportunity.''

Amendola is eighth in the NFL in receptions, averaging 12.2 yards with two touchdowns, even though he was limited to a 44-yard grab before he got hurt in the second quarter last Thursday. He could be out six weeks with a collarbone injury.

After practice Wednesday, Fisher said only that Amendola did not participate. But on his weekly radio show earlier in the week, the coach said the injury was ``rare and unique,'' and added it was ``probably better than a fracture of the collarbone,'' which would have sidelined Amendola eight to 10 weeks or perhaps the rest of the season.

``The doctors did a great job with it on Friday, with the diagnosis,'' Fisher said on his radio show. ``The medical staff did an excellent job.''

It's the second straight year with a major setback for Amendola, who was undrafted out of Texas Tech and spent time on the practice squads at Dallas and Philadelphia before emerging with St. Louis. He played just one game last year after dislocating his left elbow and then injuring a triceps muscle when he tried to come back, after leading the Rams with 85 receptions in 2010.

``Danny caught a lot of balls and was involved in a lot of our passing game,'' Bradford said. ``Those balls, they have to go somewhere.''

Brandon Gibson is Bradford's No. 2 target thus far with 13 receptions, a 14.2-yard average and two touchdowns. Tight end Lance Kendricks caught his first career TD pass last week and has 10.

Givens is the fastest Ram with a 4.3 40-yard dash time and blew past Arizona's Patrick Peterson on a 52-yard touchdown pass that put that game out of reach. He's averaging 28 yards but on just four receptions.

``With the injury to Danny my reps are going to increase a little bit,'' Givens said. ``We've got to prove to the coaches we can do it without Danny as well as with Danny.''

NOTES: S Quintin Mikell was not on the injury list, practicing six days after sustaining what the team had called a mild concussion. ``I'm fine. I'm good to go,'' Mikell said. Another player with a concussion-related issue, DE Eugene Sims, was limited. ... RB Steven Jackson also was not on the injury list, and apparently has recovered from a groin injury sustained in Week 2.

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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 


The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall reamins out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.

The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.


The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.

By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine, if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

No player on the Caps gets more scrutiny than defenseman Brooks Orpik. While the analytics aren't kind when he's on the ice, we got to see what the Caps looked like without him when he was scratched against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday and...well, his loss was noticeable.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir discuss what Orpik's true impact on the Capitals really is both on and off the ice on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast. Plus, they also talk about John Carlson's monster season and Barry Trotz's new strategy for the goalies.

Listen to the latest episode in the player below or here on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.